It’s messy, this building of houses and relationships, but the experiences give this memoir an existential grace.

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RIVER HOUSE

A MEMOIR

Returning home to build a house and a life proves to be a bittersweet experience for Lawrence, a farmer making her writing debut.

The author was a globetrotting river guide living in Chile when a visit from her father awakened her to something amiss. He worked the family farm in central Oregon and wanted nothing more than to get away from the ranch to surf at the beach. She was living a dream, he reminded her. She hadn’t made the effort to learn the language, and she wasn’t making the connections. “In fact,” her father told her, “you don’t even deserve to be here.” That stung, for Lawrence both loved her father and held him in high esteem. After some serious reflection, she decided to return home, build a house and establish herself at the ranch and in the community. In limpid, emotional prose, the author writes about constructing her cabin with her father during five mean winter months, during which he taught her about the art of building. “Listen to that saw,” he said. “It’s talking to you all the time…Tools have their space just like a partner in a dance. The space should be rigid and respected.” But as Lawrence gradually melded into place, her father slowly fell away, unhinged by too many years denying his dream of riding long curls off the Mexican coast—and by too many years behind the hash pipe. As this push-pull of father, daughter, mother and place makes its melancholic way, the author sprinkles the story with lovely images: surfing an irrigation canal, seeing a mountain lion at close range, breaking the ice in the horses’ troughs, constructing a neighborhood pipeline.

It’s messy, this building of houses and relationships, but the experiences give this memoir an existential grace.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-9825691-3-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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